This could be the title for almost any Sumatran post but it suits specially well the Mentawai Islands.
The place is a world apart and feels very unlike anywhere else I saw before, despite of being only 11 hours by ferry from the Sumatran mainland.
When we arrived to Siberut people were cleaning after a bad flooding. Plenty of water and mud was still all around.
On the ferry we conformed the 5 people bule team. We met as well a local Surfaid employer. That was the key to have an amazing time there. He helped us to arrange everything and hooked us with the right people. We used the Surfaid office and a local family home next to it as our headquarter. We got a local guy to take us for the trekking for $5 a day per person (add another $5 for sleeping, food and presents and that’s it). After sorting things out we were ready to depart for 5 days.
Some parts of the trek were really hard, fighting the knee level deep mud. During 3 days another local joined us walking barefooted with a machete on the front (no extra charge for him).
People in the jungle have a hunting-gathering life style. Nowadays they have a few pigs and chicken though. Still they don’t work the land, maybe cos they don´t know how to, maybe they are too lazy or maybe just cos they don’t give a fuck. The base of their alimentation is the sagu, which they obtain from a tree that they use to feed their animals as well. It is quite tasteless unless mixed with coconut.
Old people have their bodies fully tattooed, even their faces but the Indonesian government don’t allow these tradition any more. One shaman offered to make me a tattoo for $10 but I was too tired and the tools looked very painful.
We stayed with them in their very basic one room homes, sharing all together our and their food. They expect some presents. Apart from coffee, sugar and rice we brought candy for the adults and cigarettes for the kids (shit! now I realized it was supposed to be the other way around). Everyone loves smoking so cigarettes are considered a very valuable item.
One evening when staying in a very remote home we heard some music coming from the middle of the jungle, wtf??? Apparently a stupid TV show about bules living in wild tribes for a while was recorded in a nearby house. They left them with a generator and now, as longs as they manage to get some money to buy petrol they would play loud music every evening. Anyway, I prefer the tunes of Amatople, the eccentric shaman we stayed with. He is a showman and loves singing anything from traditional Mentawai songs to the Indonesian anthem.
I could write lots more about the amazing Mentawai people but then that would take 5 posts and bore you and me. In the future I will try to upload an off-topic post about some conversations with them.
As well, I would like to add lots of photos to this post but it is very difficult to choose so here all the Mentawai pics. Check them out.